Bill Granger’s toothy grin and generous brunches have helped spread his beachy Australian aesthetic around the world like honeycomb butter on a fluffy ricotta hotcake. The chef has opened branches of his eponymous café as far afield as Waikiki, Hawaii and his newest venture, Bills in Osaka, Japan, opens in November 2017.
It makes sense for Granger to pop up in Osaka. After all, the city is known as Japan’s kitchen, its residents said to be capable of kuida-ore or “eating oneself bankrupt”, and his seven other Bills eateries in Japan are credited with setting off a pancake craze that hasn’t yet abated. Granger loves the city for its “infinite opportunities to eat”.
“I like to do as the locals do and snack my way around the city – there’s a lot of easy, cheap and quick food available at stalls,” he says. Here are Bill Granger’s top picks for eating – and shopping – your way around Osaka.
Brooklyn Roasting Company Kitahama
2-1-16 Kitahama, Chuo-ku
“Biotop is a concept store with a café and lush nursery in one part and edgy fashion labels from Japan and abroad, select cosmetics and fragrances in another. There’s also a cool Italian rooftop bar and restaurant called Cubierta which is a lot of fun in the warmer months.”
1F and 4F, 1-16-1 Minamihorie, Nishi-ku
“Gyoza, those little crescent-shaped Japanese dumplings, are the main event here. Osaka Ohsho is a firm family favourite – huge plates of gyoza and egg fried rice with green veg. We often have to re-order gyoza twice in an attempt to satisfy our appetite for them.”
Several locations around Osaka
Photo by Masahiro Kohda
Truck Furniture and Bird Coffee
“Truck is an oasis in the suburbs of Osaka. Its husband and wife proprietors, longtime fans of Australia, built their home, leather and woodworking workshops, furniture and lifestyle store and café, Bird Coffee, from scratch. It’s surrounded by abundant greenery – unusual in such an urban megacity. They have created a world I wanted to inhabit immediately with their kids and rescue dogs, and they sell beautiful wooden furniture, highly curated fashion, toys and skincare, all with a natural and functional bent.”
6-8-48 Shinmori, Asahi-ku
“Under the elevated railway tracks of the Namba Nankai Electric Railway is a new development with lots of interesting places to eat and drink. You’ll find a branch of Brooklyn Roasting Company, an Awesome Bakery, a pizza-by-the-slice restaurant called Token, plus loads of independent retailers and plenty of bike parking.”
Takoyaki Doraku Wanaka
“You must try Osakan takoyaki or squid balls, which are light and fluffy and deliciously moreish, most often served with special takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise and bonito flakes. They’re so popular in Osaka that every home has their own takoyaki-maker and Japan also has takoyaki-flavoured Pringles, but I recommend you leave it to the experts at Takoyaki Doraku Wanaka.
11-19 Namba Sennichimae, Chuo-ku
Photo by Masahiro Kohda
Hankyu Department Store
“Visit a food hall – Hankyu Department Store has one of the very best where you can see and sample Osakan food in all its glory and delectable variety. The store even has chilled lockers shoppers can rent to keep their purchases cold until it’s time to head home.”
8-7 Kakuda-cho, Kita-ku
“This restaurant is a beloved Kansai classic that serves steamed pork and vegetable buns called butaman, which are served on scented pine sheets called zabuton rather the usual paper. Allegedly, 551 Horai sells 110,000 buns a day – definitely worth getting your hands on a few of them.”
3-6-3 Nanba, Chuo-ku; +81 6 7733 0551
Kushikatsu is an Osakan speciality of panko-crumbed fish, vegetables and meat on skewers that can be found widely in the city from stalls to the high-end. It’s eaten mainly with kushikatsu sauce, a sweet brown sauce based on Worcestershire sauce, but I’ve also eaten skewers with mayonnaise and tartare sauce. For a first-class Kushikatsu Bon, try it at a Michelin one-starred eatery called Kushikatsu Bon where they bring diners skewer after skewer until they’re full, including foie gras and uni (sea urchin) varieties.
1-3-16 Dojima, Kita-ku; +81 6 6344 0400
“Like a big bowl of comfort, kitsune udon is another Japanese favourite that has its origins in Osaka. The udon noodles sit in a dashi broth topped with fried tofu, and Usami-Tei Matsubaya claims to have invented the dish more than 100 years ago.”
3-8-1 Minamisenba, Chuo-ku; +81 6 6251 3339
“Osakan favourite okonomiyaki is a flour, pork, seafood and cabbage pancake that you often find yourself cooking on a teppanyaki grill at your table. Fukutaro serves negiyaki, a special type of okonomiyaki that is lighter, filled with negi (leek) and served with soy sauce.
2-3-17 Sennichimae, Chuo-ku
“The Dotonburi area is an excellent place to wander around, picking up bites to eat here and there and experience Osaka street life, especially as work gets out in the early evening. You really get a feel and flavour for the liveliness of the Osakans and the food that Osaka is famous for.”
Main image by Masahiro Kohda